Cuyahoga Valley National Park

On our return trip back home we made Cuyahoga Valley National Park our fifth national park visited. Cuyahoga National Park is located in Ohio about 45 minutes South of Cleveland. It runs lengthwise from North to South along the Cuyahoga River which is part of the Ohio and Erie Canalway.

I booked reservations early on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and we rode from Peninsula, Ohio down to Akron and back in a vintage coach car that was built in the 1940’s. The views along the Cuyahoga River are amazing and the towpaths along the canal can still be seen and now function as bike paths. The park is very bicycle friendly and bike rentals are available in Peninsula. If we had more time we would have rented Linda a Pedego bike for a little exploring but the rental shop was oddly not open the weekend of The Fourth of July.

After our train ride we explored the riverfront right next to the Peninsula Station and found Lock 29. What’s there today are remnants of an old aqueduct and locks system in which barges can be floated up and actually pass over the Cuyahoga River and Canal. It’s quite a feat of engineering for that time.

On Independence Day we went for a hike on The Ledges Trail. We were greeted by singing park rangers at the trailhead and explored gorges and caves.

I had heard if you go for one hike in Cuyahoga Valley National Park you should make it The Ledges Trail and it didn’t disappoint. The kids had a load of fun rock scrambling along the many detours and it’s 2.3 miles of moderate terrain were perfect for a holiday hike.

You can see more of The Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad, Lock 29 and The Ledges Trail in the video below. This was our last stop on our 16 night 2021 Summer Trip. Stay tuned as we take on a change of pace for our next mini trip in a few weeks. Thanks for stopping by.

Streetsboro/ Cleveland KOA

I chose Streetsboro/Cleveland KOA for it’s close proximity to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was only about 20 minutes to the park near the historic town of Hudson.

We really enjoyed being back in a campground with a conventional pool once again. The kids also enjoyed the ice cream parlor, game room and gem mining.

On Saturday, KOA had crafts available to break up the day. They enjoyed crafting tye-dye shirts and making patriotic luminaries. Later on that night they had a band called American Pie and we danced until late.

The following day was The Fourth of July and we went hiking in the national park, came back and swam for a bit then lit sparklers and watched the bigger stuff explode over the fishing lake.

Streetsboro/Cleveland KOA is a clean campground and seems to be run by a family that cares about providing you with a fun experience. You can see a lot more in the video link below. We’ll let you know more about Cuyahoga Valley National park in our next post which will be the final one for this trip. Thanks for stopping by.

Smokey Hollow Campground

We left Leelanau Pines Campground and traveled over the Mackinac Bridge to Wisconsin via Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I chose Smokey Hollow Campground basically for what you see above. My kids have played on a “ninja course” at Massey’s Landing Campground in Delaware but it was much smaller and only for a specific time over the weekend. This course is absolutely huge and is open all the time. We did, however, have to keep a keen eye on our kids as there are no lifeguards and parts of the course are very high.

Smokey Hollow also had a bunch of other things to do such as two playgrounds, a bounce pillow and specialty bikes that you can ride around for free. The bikes similar to city bikes. You just get on one and drive it to somewhere in the campground and once you park it the bike is free for someone else to use. They also had a snack bar and we enjoyed the smoothies.

We did have some rain while in Wisconsin but that ended up in our favor one morning as we had the whole swimming pond to ourselves in the light drizzle. I tried to get the crew to hike at a nearby state park but I think they were hiked ou from our previous stay in Michigan. We did go to Madison one evening for dinner and discovered Wisconsin Cheese Curds.

Upon leaving Madison, Linda asked we stop by the firehouse to get a t-shirt. She came back out to the Jeep as they had asked if we wanted to come in for a tour. We toured the the kitchen, lounge and bunk rooms as well as the apparatus floor where we saw the ice boat, scuba boat, engine and ladder as well as a couple other specialty vehicles. Fire Station 1 is the main station in Madison and is located just down the street from the capitol building. Thanks to FF. Dhamen for taking time out of his day to give us the tour.

Click the link above to see more of Smokey Hollow Campground, particularly the ninja course. There’s also a bit of footage at the end of Station 1 in Madison. We’re off to Ohio making our way back home next where we’ll spend the Fourth of July. Thanks for stopping by.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

I learned about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore a few years back on an RV podcast and filed it away on a must do list for national parks to visit. This visit marked our fourth national park that we’ve hiked in. We began our visit at The Philip A. Hart Visitor Center then drove Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and stopped at Dune Overlook where the next four pictures were taken. This was our first day in the park and the day with the best weather. Dune Overlook has dunes that are roughly 200 feet high and you’re encouraged not to run down them as getting back up can be very arduous and you may need to be rescued.

Our next stop was The Dune Climb which is much safer as you start out at the bottom (parking lot) and climb to the top. If it gets too tough at any point you can simply just walk back down. After getting a bit sweaty at The Dune Climb we drove a short distance to Glen Haven Beach and swam in the crystal clear, albeit cold, waters of Lake Michigan.

We also swam at Platte River Point Beach while at Sleeping Bear Dunes. The kids had a great time here on their boogie boards letting the current sweep them gently downstream and then walking back up the beach to repeat the process again. The water in Platte River was much warmer than Lake Michigan and we were able to stay in for hours.

During our visit we hiked three times. The first being The Empire Bluff Trail in which you hike 1.5 miles through a forest out onto a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan and the second being The Alligator Hill Trail. The Alligator Hill Trail is also an easy trail that provides a view of The Manitou Islands although the day we went was rainy and we actually hiked into the cloud base. Cool yeah, but not the best for views and vistas. We also hiked The Pyramid Point Trail which provided great views of Lake Michigan and Glen Lake.

We had a great time at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and ventured into the park five of the six days we were there. The weather wasn’t great but the park did not disappoint on activities and beauty. More of the park can be seen in the video below.

We’re off to Wisconsin next so please stay tuned for our adventures in The Badger State. Thanks for stopping by.

Leelanau Pines Campground & Traverse City Eats

Leelanau Pines is a family run campground in Northwest Michigan situated between Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park and Traverse City. It’s also situated right on Lake Leelanau. It did not have some of the amenities that some of the other campgrounds we’ve stayed at have had (pool) but was quiet and clean. We did, in fact, come here for the national park.

Full Hook-Up Site

The campground caters to a majority of seasonal campers but is in demand. I made all of our summer camping reservations back in January and the best I could do here was to reserve the full hook-up site above for four nights and then switch to a water/electric site for the remaining two nights of our six night stay. It has a boat launch and small boats are available to rent to go out on Lake Leelanau. It has a swimming beach but we opted not to partake as Linda nearly tripped over this fella pictured below. He/she did not seem frightened of us at all and eventually took to the water and swam right underneath the steps leading to the swim basin.

Some kind of water snake- not sure if poisonous.

We swam plenty in Lake Michigan, Glen Lake and Platte River so not swimming here didn’t keep us from the water for six days. Leelanau Pines had a great playground and we rode our bikes and explored the woods a fare share. The kids found a lean to built by kids that stay or have previously stayed here.

Lean To found in the woods

When we weren’t hiking or swimming in the national park we went out a few times in both Glen Arbor and Traverse City but I don’t think the kids have dined anywhere as iconic as Sleder’s yet.

Sleder’s Family Tavern has been a Traverse City landmark for 138 years and is the longest continuously operating restaurant in Michigan. In that time thousands have climbed the ladder and kissed Randolph the moose. We kissed the Michigan icon as well which can be seen on our video link at the bottom of this page.

We also had ice cream at another famous place in Traverse City. Moomers makes more than 160 flavors of ice cream and has it’s own dairy farm. We got the recommendation from a boy Sarah befriended at the campground and Moomers did not disappoint.

Click the video link below to see more of Leelanau Pines Campground, Sleder’s and Moomers as well as a great playground that kept the kids busy while Linda perused the shops in Glen Arbor.

Stay tuned as we’re off to explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park next. Thanks for stopping by.

Niagara Falls State Park

Ava wanted ice cream as soon as we got to the park…

I have fond memories of visiting Niagara Falls when I was a kid. The children’s ages seemed perfect for this trip. When we stayed when I was younger, we stayed on the Canadian side which was out of the question this year due to the remaining Covid-19 restrictions crossing the international border.

Our stop in Niagara Falls was part of a much grander plan to cross the border and travel through Canada to Michigan. We’re in our first stop of a four state Northern Midwest Loop. After visiting Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park we cross over to Wisconsin via Michigan’s Upper Peninsula then down to Ohio to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park and celebrate the Fourth of July.

Our Canadian crossing never happened due the pandemic restrictions not loosening up enough (we would have all had to be tested) so we traveled to Michigan via Route 90 mostly, just South of Lake Erie.

Niagara Falls State Park is America’s oldest state park and all four of the five great lakes empty into Lake Ontario before they flow into the Niagara River and down it’s three waterfalls at a rate of 3,160 tons per SECOND! Niagara Falls is not the biggest waterfall in North America but is capable of generating over 4 million kilowatts of electricity which is shared by the USA and Canada.

We stayed three nights in the area but it only took us about three hours to get a decent feel for the falls. We parked at the edge of town and walked along the Niagara River, reveling in natures ferocity and the swift moving water and rapids. We then walked further up, leading up to “the drop.”

I had planned to visit a few attractions a’ la carte as the Discovery Pass wasn’t available for purchase this year but we only went on The Maid of the Mist. They take you literally right underneath the falls for a view you can get no other way. In retrospect I feel it was the perfect amount of exposure to this great state park. We were very happy to buy ice cream and do some quick souvenir shopping before heading back to the campground.

“The Drop”

I only hope that Linda and the kids have the same fond memories that I had as a kid and I’m sure they will. We had a great time on The New York side. Canada will have to wait as our nations are just waking up from the Corona Virus.

Please check out our video below to see more of our experiences from Niagara Falls, particularly Maid of the Mist. We’re off to Michigan’s Lower Peninsula next so be sure to stay tuned. Thanks for stopping by.

Branches of Niagara Campground and Resort

I found Branches of Niagara Campground through an RV podcast we used to listen to. The hosts just went on and on about this campground so much that there was no other choice to stay at when visiting Niagara Falls. Jellystone, KOA…. no matter how good their ratings were we had to stay here. It’s up there on Linda’s favorite campgrounds and I’d say I have to agree.

Upon checking in the staff was so courteous and helpful and that just continued throughout our three night stay. Challenging playgrounds, a magical pool area, a swimming/fishing pond and even zip lining kept us quite busy during our visit.

The campground was pristine and full hook ups were available as well as water/electric sites and cabins. Branches of Niagara is only about 15 minutes from the falls on Grand Island.

The kids really had a ball here swimming and playing. The campground is just big enough to entertain but also feels small so they can have a little freedom and ride their bikes around.

We had decent weather and were treated to a great sunset our last night. We were moving on but wish we could have just a little more “campground time.”

These pictures really don’t tell the full story. We shot a lot of video here and that can be seen in the link below. We’ll bring you to Niagara Falls next so stay tuned and thanks for stopping by.

Rain Again, This Time it’s Memorial Day Weekend!

In the quest for more bad weather, we booked Four Seasons Campground in Pilesgrove, New Jersey. This time we’re plus one and still having fun!

Four Seasons was really helpful to us in making the most of the storms as they had plenty of indoor events and crafts scheduled over the holiday weekend.

As you can see, we had a ton of fun despite and were busy painting and glueing. We brought home a lot of hand made souvenirs!

That also had a great activity room with a warm fire. The kids danced and played indoor games such as giant Jenga and ladder ball.

We were thankful as Linda brought a jig saw puzzle to pass some additional time but the kids made the most of it at the playground as well running through the raindrops.

They even took a brief dip in the unheated pool. Quite brief!

We managed to get a fire lit in all of the dampness and the kids enjoyed the rock classics of The Jersey Surecats on Sunday night.

Check out our video below for more Memorial Day Weekend footage. We have big plans for our next outing so be sure to stay tuned for that! Thanks for stopping by.

Rainy Spring Break, 2021

We chose Rhode Island to be our thirteenth state as it was one of two Northeast States we hadn’t camped in yet. I was fortunate to get a block of weekdays at Fisherman’s Memorial State Campground which is notoriously difficult to secure reservations. We were not fortunate, however, with the weather.

For a state run campground, Fisherman’s Memorial has full hookups available, a generous playground, paved roads and water access. We discovered a cool feature during our stay: the campground was a fort that was decommissioned after World War Two and traces of its underground barracks and munition storage can be seen throughout the park. It’s proximity to Narragansett was another reason we chose to stay there.

The week before Spring Break, the weather was unseasonably warm with abundant sunshine. The day we left a low pressure system moved in and stalled for the whole week. You have to make the most of these situations, we enjoyed the sun on the drive home.

Narragansett is a quaint, walkable town. It’s easy to see it’s charm, probably a lot better in season without the sting of wind driven drizzle on your face. We had a great lunch at The Coast Guard House and spent way too much money at the candy store.

We hiked The Black Point Trail which leads you through a dune and sand forest leading you out to these giant boulders with hundreds of small tide pools. The kids had a great time jumping from rock to rock and searching for small sea creatures.

We took an off season ferry ride to Block Island during our stay. We were limited to walk on fares only since The Block Island Ferry was already booked for autos that day. This was probably due to the amount of construction and renovations occurring on the island in order to get it’s buildings ready for the busy summer season.

We were able to find the one restaurant open and had a couple of beers and a nice lunch, thanks to Poor Peoples Pub. We found a hidden gem at Abram’s Animal Farm. They had an interesting assortment of animals and we had the place to ourselves.

While waiting for our ferry ride back to the mainland, the kids played on the jetty and adjacent beach. Some women rode up on horseback and let the kids pet their horses. I’ve been to Block Island in season and it is great to have your choice of open shops and restaurants but we still had fun and now looking back at the pictures, the weather didn’t seem so bad after all.

To see more of our Rhode Island Adventure, please check the link below to our video. Thanks for stopping by.

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